We told you this would happen: It took longer than expected, but Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, part of the rarely visited Lake Clark National Park, started erupting on Sunday and has erupted four more times or so since. The eruptions have sent columns of white smoke thousands of feet into the sky, canceling flights in Anchorage and depositing a fine layer of ash as far north as Healy, on the edge of Denali National Park.
The 100 residents of the nearby town of Port Alsworth have it worse, though. Townspeople have been forced to stay indoors to avoid breathing in the abrasive ash, and since flying is the only way out of the remote town, everybody is stranded. (Hopefully, someone in town has a good board game collection.)
Alaska Airlines grounded 45 of its flights, citing obvious safety concerns of flying planes in ash clouds. Said company spokesperson Bobbie Egan:
“We just can’t take on Mother Nature,” she said. “We are continuing to assess the weather conditions, which are extremely dynamic. Volcanic ash poses significant safety concerns to the aircraft while in the air. In addition to limiting visibility, it can actually damage an aircraft’s engines. We’ll resume flying when it’s safe to do so. The safety of our passengers is really our top priority right now.”
The last time Redoubt erupted in 1989, the volcano spewed ash clouds consistently for a week, and then it alternated between growing a lava dome and shooting out ash clouds.
Aspiring vulcanologists can follow Redoubt’s progress and threat level at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.